Architects of experience

Shakuntala Jaisinghania

Traditional teaching methods are based on the assumption that effective learning is a matter of conditioned response or ‘conditioning’; failure to respond to a question correctly is punished and successful responses are rewarded. Motivation for learning is derived from the need to gain rewards for success and avoid punishment for failure. These needs or motives are extrinsic to the learning process and form the basis for ‘extrinsic motivation’.

Conditioned learning is passive learning. Learning becomes passive because it is based on the memorisation of set patterns, i.e., ‘rote learning’. Superficial learning and so-called ‘knowledge’ is evaluated and measured in terms of a standardised system of evaluation, i.e., ‘grades’ and grade averages. Emphasis on grades creates a dependency on extrinsic motivation. The teacher transfers knowledge and depending on the way he/she does it, learning may or may not take place.

teacher's-diary

On the other hand, learning is an active, natural process. Natural learning is meaningful because it takes place in the context of experience, i.e., ‘experiential learning’. Experiential learning is a function of the brain’s natural capacity for learning which we will call brain-based learning. In the new paradigm for teaching, the teacher’s function is to enhance the learner’s intrinsic motivation. Effective teaching methods place the emphasis on the facilitation of self-directed learning. The teacher becomes the architect, designing experiences that will lead students to make meaningful connections.

Facilitative teaching methods are effective because they comply with the natural holistic functioning of the brain. Teaching for effective learning is teaching to the brain’s natural functioning while engaging the learner’s personal development.

Brain-based learning involves optimal functioning of the brain and depends on the unconscious motivation for the intrinsic rewards of knowledge and understanding, i.e., ‘intrinsic motivation’. In the new teaching paradigm emphasis is on intrinsic motivation.

Becoming a teacher today is more daunting than ever, and teachers must be prepared inwardly for the challenges of this role as well as outwardly in relation to their instructional knowledge and skill in the classroom. Teachers must be concerned with excellence, both for themselves and for their students, and this means breadth and depth in content studies as well as higher order thinking, complex and critical thinking, creativity, technology infusion, and values-based education.

The teacher is a leader whose influence appears in many forms, sometimes quiet and unobtrusive, but always persistent. The teacher-leader envisions possibilities – that all students can learn, that schools can get better, and all teachers can achieve high levels of success professionally, witnessed by their students’ accomplishments in learning. The teacher-leader encourages, recognises resources and talents, offers comfort to those in stress, challenges students to achieve deeper understanding, interprets the world and events meaningfully, and walks the moral road. He or she is an advocate for the helpless student and empowers the ineffective student, inspiring colleagues to adopt the same disposition. The teacher-leader is also an effective colleague in the process of school renewal. He or she views a school as a learning organisation and seeks skillful means to encourage thoughtful change processes. Whether faced with a colleague in despair, a school in chaos, or a child in need, the call to educate is a living vocation in the teacher-leader.

Skills to be developed by the teacher of today

Leadership Skills: Create the habit of learning in children through a thorough knowledge of how they learn and their individual learning styles. The Multiple Intelligences theory by Howard Gardner is an essential tool in identifying and understanding the various styles in which a child learns. Every child has many facets of intelligence in varying degrees. Gardner’s theory helps us find out how each child is gifted.

Technology Skills: Optimise the use of open and distance learning technologies to make the best use of their power to create interactive feedback between the learner and the learning program. Use technology as a tool for organisation, communication, research, and problem solving.

Classroom Management Skills: Organise classrooms into hives of active personal learning using all the resources available. Pre-empt typical behavioural problems that might arise in the classroom. Proactively prevent or at least minimise these problems from occurring in order to ensure the smooth management or functioning of the class. Equip yourself with strategies that will help deal with possible behavioural problems in the classroom.

Networking Skills: Develop all the ways of using communication technology to stimulate innovative learning. Network learners with other learners on a local, national and international basis and develop.

Counselling Skills: Empower each learner by helping to set and monitor personal goals through personal learning plans, mentoring techniques and individualised learning modules.

Self-Improvement Skills: Respond to the new lifelong learning world by continuously updating skills and competencies. Recognise the value of “self’ in teaching.

Inspirational Skills: Stimulate learning into an enjoyable and creative experience through a thorough knowledge of the psychology of learning motivation and how to overcome barriers to learning confidence.

teacher

I would like to share this incident, which a friend mailed me, with all teachers: “The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, ‘What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his/her best option in life was to become a teacher?’

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’ To stress his point he said to another guest;

‘You’re a teacher. Be honest. What do you make?’ The Teacher, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, ‘You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, and then began…)

‘Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5.

You want to know what I make.’ (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.)

‘’I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them apologise and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in Math. They use their god given brain, not the man-made calculator. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.’
(She paused one last time and then continued.)

‘Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant…

You want to know what I make?
I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make Mr. CEO?’
His jaw dropped, he went silent.

The author is an educational consultant with Sparsh, a division of SEED Infotech at Pune. She can be reached at shakun.jaisinghani@gmail.com.